Mining plan released

VAST swathes of farming land to the east of Warwick have been identified by a State Government study as worthy of protection from mining in the future.

The Government this week released its Strategic Cropping Land Framework, which it says will ensure about 70,000sqm of Queensland's farming country cannot be touched by the mining boom.

But there are loopholes, with a provision for a “demonstrated exceptional circumstance” if a“unique resource” – such as coal seam gas – is found in a district.

The policy announcement follows recent Daily News coverage of drilling in the Allora and Goomburra areas by a Sydney-based mining company, Clean Global Energy, which is on the hunt for a site to extract coal gas using the same method – underground coal gasification or UCG – as that which contaminated groundwater supplies at Kingaroy last month.

Landowners here remain concerned, despite the State Government declaring a moratorium on new UCG trials until the end of 2012, as a direct result of the Kingaroy debacle by Cougar Energy.

Government mapping (right, in green) shows the proposed “strategic cropping” zone for Warwick and surrounds.

Natural Resources, Mines and Energy Mines Minister Stephen Robertson said the plan would ensure mineral resources in the State's best agricultural areas “will not be developed where they permanently alienate the land”.

“Strategic cropping land will be defined as land on which soil quality, topography and seasonal rainfall combined enable more than one quality crop to be grown on a commercial agricultural basis.

“There will be a provision for a ‘demonstrated exceptional circumstance' where there is a unique resource found nowhere else in Queensland, but these will be few and far between.

“It would be difficult to see how an open-cut coal mine could proceed on Strategic Cropping Land, whereas well-designed coal-seam gas operations may be able to be accommodated.”

He said the existing Good Quality Agricultural Lands policy would continue to apply to other farmland but the new policy would prevail in cases of inconsistency.

The legislation is being finalised with community comments invited until September 30.

To view more mapping and a copy of the draft plan, visit www.derm.qld.gov.au

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